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Author Topic: Functional Failures, Operative Fakes & Tenuous Techniques // Basel, Switzerland  (Read 316 times)


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“This acknowledgement of powerlessness before the upsurge of unexpected, catastrophic events forces us to reverse the usual trend which exposes us to accidents and inaugurate a new kind of museology and museography: one which consists in exposing or exhibiting the accident, all accidents, from the most commonplace to the most tragic, from natural catastrophes to industrial and scientific disasters, including also the kind that is too often neglected, the happy accident, the stroke of luck, the coup de foudre or even the coup de grâce!” — Paul Virilio

Progress, innovation and linear growth are cornerstones of our contemporary economies, social systems, even personal faith and belief. The very pervasiveness and prevalence of these models and values requires that we unearth, create and circulate alternative, counter-narrative and parallel accounts. Technological development is often recounted as the exploitation and instrumentalisation of heroic moments and individuals, ignoring the long shadow of aborted projects, flops, errors, malfunctions, ethical disavowals and disasters. Further, we witness how speculation, as irresponsible and flagrant futurism, projects magic and imagination while the mantras of innovation are functionalizing failure itself (i.e. “Fail Fast, Fail Often”, “Fail Better” and “Fail Forward”). How does the act of excavating and archiving the failures of innovation and techno-science become a fruitful tactic to inform a better understanding of our technological society? How could this contribute to complexify our views and inform our choices as a society in an era of rampant techno-solutionism facing paramount challenges like those of the Anthropocene?

From another standpoint, confusions and categorical errors abound as to how, where and why to assess technical, economic, social and personal utility, function or value, providing the outlining for and diagnosing cultures, habits and beings troubled by conflict, contradiction and crisis. How do we determine or define the status of something as “working” or not? We speak of the “performance” of technical objects, as if to highlight the perspectival, illusory and projective role that human psychologies play in operational measures and evaluation. What could be the performative powers of a popularisation of malfunctions, fakes and failures in a techno-positivist society? We understand revised custom airport or border security to “work” despite their ceremonial contrivances, and fantasy of complete containment and control. There exist tensions between our imagining of the technological and its apprehension as a lived reality. We are promised much yet live realities far removed from these projections. We are often asked in what ways we must suffer how much is changing and how fast, but we must also account for how little has changed, or what has only changed in our minds, or in cumbersome, aborted, stuttering, unthinking ways?

Topics related to the discussion and case studies we hope to collect include:

Esoteric and Spiritual Functionality / Magic and Technology / Imagination and Technology / Crap Futures / Evil Media / Dead Media / Apocryphal Technologies / Design Research Failures / Disasters Studies (Risk, Speculation) / Economic Failure (Disaster Capitalism & Crisis) / Obsolescence (planned, perceived, intended, unintended, etc.) / Maintenance and Repair / Critical Making / Epistemologies, Etymologies and Archaeologies of Function / Technical Myth, Pseudo-science and Propaganda / Organisational & Institutional Failure